Go to www.annualcreditreport.com, where you can get one free credit report a year from each of the three reporting agencies.
“Stagger them, by getting one report every four months, instead of all at the same time,” Horowitz said. You can get your credit score for about $10. Check for errors, and if your score is not high enough, work on building it up. The site www.creditkarma.com will also give you a rough look at your credit profile and tips to improve it, for free.
Can you find a good interest rate?
“When interest rates are low, it’s better to be a borrower than a saver,” Horowitz said. “But that will flip, when interest rates rise.”
Go for a fixed rate, rather than a variable one.
“You can always refinance to a lower rate later,” he said.
Visit www.bankrate.com to compare mortgage rates offered by credit unions and others that might beat the rates of big box banks, Horowitz said.
What’s your overall goal?
A home’s value will typically rise only about 2 percent a year over inflation, Horowitz said. There are other investments that can do better.
“If you’re going to buy, buy it to live in,” he said. “Not as an investment, because at times, you may have negative equity.” Homeowners who bought during the real estate bubble six or seven years ago have seen property values decline or are underwater, meaning they owe more than the house is now worth.
The bottom line is to figure out what is right for you, Padilla said. Timing is sometimes the most difficult decision.
“Financially the decision is easy. You crunch the numbers and get a concrete answer,” he said. “But you have to ask, personally, does it make sense?”